PCT Hike – Day 10


Morning Journal Entry: It is EARLY. It is before 6:00 am. I am awake sitting in my tent just waiting for the Sun to come up and shine a bit more. I slept quite well last evening as it was quiet in the campground.

I’ve been able to see both Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood since yesterday afternoon. Jefferson is close (which is funny, because close when you’re hiking is still a 2 day walk!) Mt. Hood still looks quite a distance away, but with every step she gets bigger on the horizon.

Mountains 2

Awake, poop, breakfast, clean dishes, filter water, pack camp, yoga. I am ready to start my day. Not sure where I will end up today, just know that I’m going North on the PCT. McKenzie Pass, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack are the three next biggest landmark areas on my maps.


Evening Journal Entry: 24 miles today! OWEY! 🙂


I feel pretty good actually, though I’m VERY tired. I started the day at Lava Camp and trekked through McKenzie Pass. I am REALLY not a fan of hiking over lava beds. I was imagining Gollum coming up from one of the edges every time I turned around. Though if it were Viggo Mortensen I wouldn’t complain. There is no wildlife, or none that I could see, and no plant life except for lichen. Barren, desolate, hot and unstable. I can’t even imagine what it was like to be the trail builders on this part of the trail. How do you choose which of the endless lava piles to climb over?

Gold Fern

After the never ending lava fields by McKenzie Pass, I began to climb up through a burn area South of Mt Washington. The trees that hadn’t fallen were bone white and bare to the blue sky, while the underbrush of fern was now a deep autumn gold. I have to say it was quite a beautiful sight to see.  The trail in this part was rough and uneven. The old PCT trail was buried under the rubble of the fallen trees from the fire, and the new trail cut its way up and around the debris. I was quite happy to be out of the lava fields.

Sisters South LavaThe South side of Mt. Washington offered some amazing views of the never-ending lava fields I just came through with the N&S Sisters and Husband in the background horizon line. It is always so incredible to look back and see where you came from and think, “Yeah, I did that!”  Same goes for looking at life, just sayin.

WA Meadow

I met one southbound Hiker on my way around Mt Washington. He looked like he had gotten in a fight with a lava field and lost. Though he seemed in good spirits, his biggest concern was water. Where was the next water stop? Luckily for him, it was at Lava Camp. Unluckily for him, it was through a lot of miles of Lava.

Traversing around Mt. Washington’s West side eventually gives you a view of Three Fingered Jack. A jagged pointy peak between Washington and Jefferson. It also passes by the Big Lake Youth Camp. This is a PCT Hiker friendly stop for those who need a food drop, a shower and a good camp. I passed by as I had just refueled two days prior and headed North towards Santiam Pass.

WA Wild

I did get to a small dirt road crossing and at this point was a wilderness check-in post and a bunch of signs saying that the PCT would be closed around the area heading in towards Mt. Jefferson and Jefferson Park due to fire. UGH – it would be a 45 mile trek around on roads or my first hitch hike. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do either. I sent Tim a note on the GPS device to find out more about the trail closures.

Snake Pond

I ended up finding water at a watering hole just off trail. I think it was Koko Lake. It was more of a large shallow pool of water that had an abundance of happy chirping birds (not the asshole birds) and lots of little tiny cute snakes. It did have a wonderful view of Hayrick Butte.

A Highway! Joy. One of the things I loved about my childhood was that I got to play video games. So, I always think of the game Frogger when I approach a highway with speeding vehicles. There is me, with my big heavy pack on, attempting to cross a highway between a world of fast moving super-sized SUV’s with drivers who I am sure are checked out of their own world experiences. Leap!

I was beginning to get tired, and also began my search of where to camp for the night. I knew I did NOT want to camp anywhere inside of a burn zone. The trees that are still standing are quite unstable and unrooted to the ground. Any type of wind or tremor could send those things down on you. It may be possible to avoid while you’re hiking along, but if you’re in your tent sleeping, you’re a goner. I had no interest in being gone yet. Off I go and UP I go.

The Sun was passing over towards the West, which I knew for a fact because I hadn’t been under a canopy of trees all day long. The trail here was also difficult to navigate. You could see it, kind of, but it was a bit of a picking game to get yourself through it. When an area burns, all of the small organic life that holds the foundation of the soil dies, so everything becomes dry, dusty and unstable. Consequently, the path you are attempting to follow looks more like a wish-wash of stone, fallen tree and ash.

Jefferson Wild

I came across my first Ranger on the trail. Ranger John S. I asked him when the burn in this area happened. It was 2003. Eleven years ago and the place still looked like a destruction zone. I also asked him where I could camp as nothing around here seemed stable. He told me of a green area around a lake that would require some picking over to get to and I’d have to keep my eye out for the common trail as the blow zone of the fire had covered most of it up. Sounded good to me and it was only about 5 miles away. I also asked him about the trail closure signs I had seen earlier, and he mentioned that those were old signs from about a month ago, and all the PCT trails North on the PCT were open, though some of the side trails would still be closed. I was clear for passing. WHEW

As we were talking, I heard more gunshots and looked at him. “Hunting Season, you’re traveling up the county lines and will be crossing back and forth over the line for the next day. On your left you have gun hunters, on your right, bow and arrow.” Apparently Ranger John had the same viewpoint on hunting that I did.

No sooner did I finish showing him my wilderness permit for that area, did a hunter with his rifle come down the trail passing where we were. Ranger John noticed he wasn’t carrying a pack, but had a doe strapped to his back. <sad> Ranger John asked him for his wilderness permit, and the hunter’s reply was, “Nope, it’s packed in my bag.” and without any further conversation, passed by us heading towards the parking area at Santiam Pass. Ranger John said, “Okay, I’ll see you in the parking lot.” So the next ten minutes of my hike up I was hoping that Ranger John was going to give him a big fat ticket for not having a wilderness permit, and perhaps he didn’t have a hunting permit either and could get an even bigger one.

Smoke Layers

Up I went making my way towards Three Fingered Jack. I was still in a burn zone. I can’t even imagine how big this fire was when it was rolling. It stretched as far as I could see in every direction. I eventually came up to a ridge line. There was a small clump of trees, the first live trees I had seen in a day, and an amazing view of the Western skyline and Three Fingered Jack to the North, and everything I could see to the East that wasn’t buried in smoke. Oh yeah, the smoke all day had been quite bad.  Camp Please! It was a very long day for hiking. Not a lot of coverage from the sun. Lots of dust, very little water and 11.5 hours in my boots. OWEY! It was definitely time for a rest.

mm 1988 – ~2010/2012, 22-24 miles,  11.5 hours

Happy Trekking!




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